Julian Assange: A timeline of Wikileaks founder's case

Julian Assange in 2011
[Reuters]

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange is set to return to Australia a free man after over a decade fighting extradition to the United States on espionage charges.

The 52-year-old Australian was arrested in April 2019 at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he had been staying since 2012.

He sought asylum at the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden on a rape allegation that he denied - and claimed was a ploy to hand him over to the US.

After his arrest, he was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his bail conditions and had been in London's maximum security Belmarsh prison ever since.

These are the key dates:

  • 2006 - Assange co-founds Wikileaks - a web-based "dead-letterbox" for would-be leakers

  • April 2010 - Wikileaks releases footage of a US helicopter firing on civilians in Iraq

  • August 2010 - Swedish prosecutors first issue an arrest warrant for Assange on two separate sexual assault allegations - which Assange says are "without basis"

  • December 2010 - Assange is arrested in London and bailed soon after. He begins appealing against the international arrest warrant

Ecuador Embassy

  • May 2012 - The UK's Supreme Court rules he should be extradited to Sweden to face questioning over the allegations

  • June 2012 - Assange enters the Ecuadorean embassy in London

  • August 2012 - Assange is officially granted asylum and, while addressing reporters from the balcony of the embassy, demands that the US drop its "witch-hunt"

Julian Assange on the balcony at the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012
Mr Assange spoke to the media and his supporters from the Ecuadorean embassy in August 2012 [AFP]
  • February 2016 - A UN panel rules that Assange has been "arbitrarily detained" by UK and Swedish authorities and calls for his freedom

  • May 2017 - Sweden's director of public prosecutions announces that the sexual assault investigations into Assange are being dropped

  • October 2018 - Assange is given a set of house rules by the Ecuadorean embassy, the same month it is revealed he is launching legal action against the government of Ecuador - accusing it of violating his "fundamental rights and freedoms"

  • November 2018 - It is revealed that the US justice department secretly filed charges against Assange

  • April 2019 - The Metropolitan Police enter the embassy - with the Ecuadorean government's permission - and detain Assange for "failing to surrender to the court" over a warrant issued in 2012

Belmarsh Prison

  • May 2019 - Assange is sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his bail conditions

  • May 2019 - A federal grand jury in the US indicts Assange on 17 new alleged violations of the Espionage Act, bringing the total number of felony charges against him to 18

  • May 2019 - Sweden reopens the sexual assault investigation and the US reveals its charges against Assange. He begins fighting extradition in the UK courts

  • November 2019 - Swedish prosecutors discontinue their rape investigation

  • January 2021 - A British judge rejects a US request to extradite Assange because of the impact on his mental health. In December, the US win their bid to overturn the ruling

  • June 2022 - The UK government orders the extradition of Assange to the US, but his case continues to be tied up in appeals

  • February 2024 - Assange's lawyers launch a final legal bid to stop his extradition at the High Court - a higher judicial authority for England and Wales

  • May 2024 - The High Court rules Assange can bring a new appeal against extradition to the US

  • 19 June 2024 - Assange signs a plea agreement with the US and the High Court grants him bail

Plea deal

  • 24 June 2024 - Assange is released from prison on bail and boards a flight to a US territory in the Pacific to formalise a plea deal

  • 25 June 2024 - He formally pleads guilty to one count of breaching the Espionage Act and in return is allowed to walk free and return to his native Australia